signs for $8 million
Becomes Hawaii's highest-paidBy Pat Bigold
rookie pro athlete ever
Chris Naeole this morning became Hawaii's highest-paid rookie pro athlete ever, signing a five-
year deal with the New Orleans Saints worth just shy of $8 million.
Naeole, the Saints' top pick in April's National Football League draft and 10th selection overall, boarded a plane for the start of the team's training camp in La Crosse, Wis., shortly after signing.
Saints president Bill Kuharich told the Star-Bulletin this morning that he believes he has made the former Kahuku High all-stater and University of Colorado consensus All-American the top-paid guard in the history of the NFL draft.
His agent, Salt Lake City attorney Dave Morway, said no guard had been drafted as high in 15 years. Naeole's pact is the most lucrative for any Hawaii athlete since Sid Fernandez signed with the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent in 1994 for $9 million over three years.
"We like his aggressiveness and run-blocking skills at right guard," said Kuharich, who coached University of Hawaii running backs in 1977. "(Head coach) Mike (Ditka) wants to run the ball, so it all starts up front."
Morway said the 6-foot-3 Naeole is in perfect condition to begin training camp. He's at 300 pounds, down from the 320 pounds he weighed at January's Hula Bowl.
Naeoles a Saint
Not much will changeBy Pat Bigold
for the Kahuku star
Chris Naeole owns a 1989 four-door Honda sedan, and up until last weekend was living in a hotel room with his wife and toddler.
But the 6-foot-3, 300-pound former Kaaawa resident, who played football for Kahuku High School and the University of Colorado, became a multi-millionaire member of the New Orleans Saints this morning.
So, some things are bound to change for the better.
"Chris plans to take care of his family and will form a foundation that will run charitable events and generate into youth projects in Hawaii," said his agent, Dave Morway. "He can't change the world but he wants to do his part."
Naeole's family expressed delight with their son's new fortune but said they don't think it will change him, and they don't want it to change their lives.
"Chris has always been very frugal and I don't think he's going to change," said Naeole's mother, Dottie, a second grade teacher at Laie Elementary.
"When he was young, he didn't ask for things, like a lot of the kids today."
She said he never asked for a car and was always content to take TheBus to school.
He didn't buy his first car -- the 1989 Honda that's registered in Colorado -- until he married the former Tara Keawe of Hawaii Kai while in college. Chris, Tara and their 2-year-old daughter, Azure, moved from the Airport Hilton in New Orleans on Saturday into a 4,000-square-foot house in Old Metairie, just outside of the city.
Dottie Naeole said that when her son was a teen-ager, he would sometimes work for minimum wage at a farm in Punaluu.
At other times, he'd volunteer to help with rounding up and branding cattle at Kualoa Ranch, where his father, Simeon, works.
It was there that a legend about Naeole's immense strength was spawned.
It was said that he "wrestled" a bull.
"We'd be castrating 400- or 500-pound (bull) calves -- they'd be roped and Chris would knock them down," said Simeon. "He was eighth or ninth grade back then."
Naeole recently trimmed off 20 pounds to round into the best shape of his playing career. It was one of the most important accomplishments of the 23-year-old's preparation for the NFL, according to Morway.
Dottie said her son was born bigger and stronger than a lot of babies.
"He was born on Christmas morning 1974, and he was 23 inches long, and 10 pounds, 11 ounces. He started standing at 4 months and was walking by 512 months."
But she said he didn't throw his weight around as a child.
"He wasn't rough, didn't knock things down. He was really easy to take care of."
Simeon Naeole, a Molokai native, said he and his wife realize their son may try to bestow some of his wealth upon them now.
"But mom and dad can still survive and handle what we do," he said. "That's his money. We're fine."